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|| News Item: Posted 2005-01-31

'Digital, of course, is like having a Polaroid, only better. Its immediate!'
By Chris Pietsch, The Register-Guard

Photo by Chris Pietsch / The Register-Guard

Photo by Chris Pietsch / The Register-Guard

Using the Mark II and the instant feedback of digital, Chris Pietsch used three lights to produce a portrait of a professional blackjack player.
(Editor's Note: One of the last hold outs to convert to digital cameras, the Eugene Register-Guard earlier this month ditched Tri-X for compact flash cards. Known for their award-winning photographs, this was a significant event and we asked for the staff's thoughts, fears and impressions in their first weeks of "doing digital".)

This probably won't sound all that profound to those of you who have been shooting digital for awhile, but here is a testimonial of how I went from studio phobic to successful portrait photographer in one session. Hallelujah brothers and sisters!

One of coolest things about shooting digital is the chance for immediate, on the fly feedback, while shooting with strobe lights.

At the outset, as I have hinted, I have been less than comfortable shooting in the studio. My instincts are toward natural light. If I must, my lighting is almost always simple one light set ups, mostly on location.

One of my first assignments with the new gear, was to shoot a picture of a local guy who had written a book about playing blackjack. It quickly became apparent that the best solution was a studio portrait of some sort, but the rest was left to me to figure out.

I arranged a time for him to come and bought some green cloth, cards, chips and started playing with the lights.

In the past, shooting film in a studio, I have regularly been frustrated. When the negs emerged from the processor, there would inevitably be something that might be improved. If the assignment was a static display, then great, I'd do a re-shoot, but if it was a portrait, I just filed away what I learned for another day.

Digital, of course, is like having a Polaroid, only better. It's immediate! A blink of an eye after shooting an image, you can see what is working and more importantly, what is not. All the while keeping your subject from nodding off or starting to get that wooden, "I'm-really-tired-of-this" look on their face.

Right off the bat, I had the confidence to do something I rarely do: set up THREE strobe lights. A gel for the background, a small soft-box for the face and a grid spot above for the chips and cards. Because of the camera, I was able to quickly check and change the ratios of the lights to get just the right combo. Both the grid halo light and the background gel needed tweaking to line everything up right.

With my subject in place I was able to quickly see where the best place to have him position his head. The first frame was too loose and the light on his face too stark. I made a few adjustments and a dialogue began.

"Kevin, could you look just a little more here? Thanks."

Click, click, chimp. "Could you look just a little more down please? Perfect!" Click, click. "Lets see. "Could you lower your face just a few inches?" Click, click, chimp. "You know, I think we might have it."

It was really that quick. The equivalent of one roll of film. I'm still not sure I believe it myself. Ok, I know I'm not ready to open a portrait studio or anything. But I can tell you that I am not dreading the next assignment that finds me in the studio.

"Thank you Lord!"

(Chris Pietsch is a staff photographer with the Eugene Register-Guard. You can check out his work at his member page:

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Chris Pietsch's member page

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